Do you need ways to save your sanity during the week? Use these tips and you’ll have extra time and maybe not have to go to the loony bin.
These last few weeks I’ve been doing some major meal prep. It has been FABULOUS! I started small with snacks and am now moving on to full meals. Having meals at the ready is a true life saver in the evenings and I wish I had started doing this a lot sooner!
If you’ve been following me on Instagram or Facebook then you probably already know that I’ve been doing some meal preparations.
Since prepping food for a whole week can get pretty overwhelming, especially if you have little extra time, I’m beginning with some smaller ways you can get started. I’ll put another post together of some larger meals I’ve prepped and my strategy.
Where to Start
Snacks are a great place to start.They are smaller and get you into the mode, weekly, of when to start your prep work. They are much less intimidating than starting with a full meal, too. I was so really nervous to start with a full meal. What if I ran out of time and couldn’t finish it!
Since they’re smaller, it is much easier to be strategic with what you’ll prepare as well. You probably know the types of snacks you and your family eat during the day. I haven’t gotten as far along as having a “snack” bin in our fridge yet but that’s definitely in the Dream/Goal list.
Here are some great snacks to start with:
Granola Bars and Granola Balls
- These can be homemade or store bought. You decide what works best for you. If you decide on homemade, here is a fantastic recipe! No cooking required and you can add whatever you want to them. No Bake Homemade Granola Bars by IHeartNaptime
- Seriously, these are so easy and delicious. I’ve posted my modified version on FaceBook twice now and just love them. Even my husband will eat them!
Fresh Fruit Packs
- Exactly what they sound like. Pre-packed fruit for the week.
- I have some small and medium size storage containers or Ziplock snack bags that are PERFECT for this.
- First, I wash and/or cut up any berries, grapes or other fruit we bought.
- Then I prep several baggies or containers for the week. My husband doesn’t take them so I make up 10 at a time. 5 for me and 5 for Baby Love.
- Sometimes I’ll just put them all in one large container so it’s at least easier to get our lunch boxes ready. Definitely worth the extra 5 minutes to just get the baggies put together, though.
Dried Fruit, Teddy Grams, Cheese-it Packs
- Same concept as the fresh fruit.
- I put a variety of dried fruit into baggies for a homemade version of trail mix. You can add nuts and/or chocolate chips to the packages too. I add cheese-its and teddy grams sometimes. Baby Love will snack on these little packs anywhere.
- I don’t always have the small snack baggies, so I use this 3-snack dispenser (it’s labeled as a formula dispenser but it works great for holding snacks) and these spill-proof snack dispensers. They’re not totally spill proof but they work really well. They allow Baby Love to access her snacks without me having to watch her too closely. She can “spill” by leaving her hand in the top and tipping the container but they really are fabulous.
- Some of our favorite dried fruits (these aren’t yogurt or chocolate covered):Cranberries
- Mango (we’re giving this a try)
Peanut Butter Bites
- I just came across these while shopping at Hy-Vee this weekend. Baby Love ate 2 while we were in the store!
- Skippy PB Bites Pretzel
- A nice boost of protein and some crunch. I had to eat one with her. They’re pretty yummy so I think I’ll add them to our snack repertoire.
Gummy Fruit Packs
- When we were visiting my in-laws, my mother-in-law had purchased a box of gummy fruit snacks. Baby Love ate these things up!
- This weekend while shopping at Hy-Vee, I ran across a package of organic gummy fruit snack packs. These will be great to add to our snack repertoire, too!
Once Baby Love is old enough, I’ll add these to our options. I’m sure she’ll love the cheese and crackers but I haven’t added those in yet. Here are some great options for older children.
**Note: Baby Love is 16 months old. She has several teeth but I try to keep our options small and softer to minimize choking hazards.
- Pudding or Jello packs
- Cheese and crackers
- Fresh veggies and a dip (ranch or hummus)
- Celery, Peanut Butter, and raisins
- Cereal (I love dry cereal as snacks and so does Baby Love)
Another great place to start is making up breakfast packs. These are also smaller than a full dinner which means they are much quicker to prepare. I prep a week at a time for both Baby Love and myself.
This is a great option. I have access to hot water and a microwave at work and my sitter has a microwave available too. Oatmeal is hearty, healthy, and really easy to put together. Just add water and heat when you’re ready to eat.
They have so many options, too! I choose to do the large container and divvy out the oatmeal instead of the Quaker quick packs but that’s my personal preference. I like that I can control the sugar content.
I just put all the ingredients into baggies for myself and keep them at my desk and take a fresh banana with my lunch box. I usually have 10 prepared, so 2 weeks worth. Quick and easy for breakfast at the office.
My favorite combination and go to, hands down!
Banana, Nutella or Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips
- Banana Nut
- Chopped nuts
- Sliced banana
- 1 tbsp chocolate chips
- Apple Cinnamon
- Diced Apples (dried or fresh)
- Blueberry Muffin
- Blueberries (dried, frozen or fresh)
- Peanut Butter and Jelly
- Peanut Butter
- Jelly (various options so you choose)
- Chocolate Covered Strawberries
- 1 tbsp chocolate chips
- Cut Strawberries (diced, quartered, however) (Fresh, frozen, dried)
Cereal is really easy to put together. My sitter just has to add milk to the container I send the cereal in so it’s easy for her. You can also put a standard portion into baggies and send it that way, have several made up so you can grab-and-go.
Cereal isn’t my favorite so I don’t really make cereal packs for myself unless I plan to eat it as a snack.
I think these are the only item I’ve done (so far) for snacks or breakfast that actually requires pre-cooking. I cooked up the meat and eggs one Saturday morning. It was enough for us to have a burrito that day and save 4 more for the freezer.
There are a ton of recipes all over the net. I didn’t have potatoes on hand so here is what I put in mine:
- Meat of Choice (I like breakfast turkey sausage)
- Large Flour Tortilla
That’s it. I just mixed the meat, eggs, and onion together, put them into the tortilla, added cheese and rolled them up. They’re individually wrapped and in a large freezer bag in the freezer. I can put one in my lunch box the night before so it thaws out in the fridge. It’s ready to be microwaved for a minute in the morning. For easy travel, I horde Taco Bell sauce packets.
Bagels and Cream Cheese
There’s not much prep to do on these. I usually just put one in a baggie and take the whole package of cream cheese with me. You could get the little snack bags to put servings of cream cheese in, though. Then put the snack bag in with the bagel.
These will last in the fridge for a few weeks.
An Easy Strategy
For snacks and breakfast, you don’t really need a huge strategy. The best advice I can give is to have an idea of the snacks and breakfasts your family eats. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before putting these together:
- What snacks do you and your kids like?
- What types of food does your family eat for breakfast?
- Of those snacks and breakfasts, which ones will require heating?
- If they require heating, does your family have a way to heat them up while out and about for the week? If not, use those options as quick packs for when you’re home.
- Do you have a place to store the packs?
After answering these questions, you should have a good idea of some snack and breakfast packs you can put together.
We tend to grocery shop Sundays. I prefer Sunday morning before nap-time so I can work on some prep while Baby Love is sleeping, but that doesn’t always happen.
When we finish putting everything away, I usually leave the fruit on the counter until I’m ready to deal with it. That way I don’t forget what needs to be cleaned and separated.
Since snacks are so quick and easy, I’m usually able to get everything prepped in under an hour.
Broad Prepping Steps
I usually do all the breakfast and snack prepping on Sunday when I’m putting together our lunch boxes. It’s easier that way since I already have everything out so why not just make a grab pack for each day the rest of the week?
Strait forward and to the point for the items that don’t need any cooking prep. Just add “cook” as your #2 if you have to cook anything. If it’s a dry item like cereal, just separate and store. If it’s a packaged item like fruit snacks, just store. Viola!
- It’s best to have all the fruits or veggies fully cleaned. That way you can just grab the bag and eat it.
- You can do standard portion sizes or just separate out for how many days you need. Most fruits won’t last longer than the week so keep the shelf life in mind when sorting.
- Fruit and veggies store in the fridge.
- Dried fruit and cereals store in the pantry.
- Oatmeal with fresh fruit stores in the fridge.
- Oatmeal with dried fruit stores in the pantry.
- Make some space and you’re ready to go.
Being prepped has made a huge impact on my week nights. I’m able to grab what I need for lunch boxes the next day without worrying about what needs to be put together. We have a tight schedule in the evenings after we get home so having things prepped reduces my stress levels which means I’m able to fully focus on my Baby Love.
Good luck on your prepping!
If you prep already, what types of snacks or breakfasts do you put together? I’d love to see your recipes or get suggestions!